REPORT OF THE LEFT UNITY MEETING MAY 15 2010 LUCAS ARMS
PRESENT: CNWP (Terry Pearce); AWL (Daniel Randell); Socialist Alliance (Toby Abse; Pete McLaren); tUSP (Steve Ballard; Nick Bailey); Socialist Party (Clive Heemskerk); DLP (Dave Church); Workers Power (Marcus Seal)
APOLOGIES – RDG, LRC, CPB. It was agreed that Steve Ballard would chair
REPORT FROM MARCH 6th MEETING - agreed as correct
MAIN DISCUSSION ITEM: THE 2010 GENERAL ELECTION – and where we go from here
Pete McLaren (SA) opened the discussion. He referred to the Left results as circulated, but began by outlining the national trends as he saw them. There was a national swing to the Tories of 5%, but that was not evenly distributed. Labour did better in its traditional urban areas, regaining control of a number of Councils. The BNP failed to make the Parliamentary breakthrough they had threatened, and they lost a large number of Councilors, including all in Barking. Their % vote increased by 1.8% overall, however, and they obtained 564,321 votes – 1.9%. UKIP's vote, 914,154, was 3%, up by 0.9%. Despite winning their first ever MP, and we should congratulate Caroline Lucas he argued, the Green Party vote fell to 0.96%, a decrease of 0.08%. Labour Left candidates had mixed results – 5 out of 22 increased their total vote, others lost out
He went on to outline his concern that 18 different left organizations had stood 121 candidates between them, gaining 55,596 votes, an average of 1.5%. Twelve Left independents also stood, gaining 10,174 votes – an average of 2.2%. This gave an overall total Left vote of 65,770, an average of 1.6%. This was no worse – or better – than 2001 (Socialist Alliance) or 2005 (SP) but, with the recession, high unemployment, public spending and benefits cuts, Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a decrease from previous elections he felt the Left should have done better, and had not been helped by the lack of unity evident in the high number of different campaigns. This could be compared with the results obtained by 29 LRC supported Left Labour candidates – 458,000 votes, averaging 34.8% – 15,800 votes per candidate on average. In terms of left unity he wondered whether the £64,000 lost by loosing deposits could not have been somewhat better spent, although he understood why the Left wanted to use the higher political climate elections created. He went out to outline the view being increasingly put forward that the Left should seriously consider re-joining Labour and re-claiming it. The LRC view was that the working class always tend to support the Labour Party, as they did in 2010 – especially as there is no viable alternative The Labour party changes through time, and it can be transformed again. The mass of trade unions are affiliated to and finance the Labour Party. It is the working class that will change society, not small left groups – we need to work within the working class and its organizations.
He concluded by giving his own view. There needs to be a working class response to the Crisis, particularly the Public Spending cuts. The Left needs to unite and help organise the resistance. That response will be better co-ordinated if it is part of a movement to build a new Left umbrella organization or Party. Trade Unions may be more likely to take a new Left party seriously than a campaign or coalition for one. We need a timescale for a new Left Party otherwise we will not move forward, and the LRC type view would gain further credence. What we do create must be inclusive and democratic – No2EU and TUSC far from perfect on both, he felt
In the discussion, Terry Pierce (CNWP) argued that people felt betrayed by Labour, but were fearful of the Tories. The Left vote was poor as voters returned to Labour. He disagreed with deadlines for a new Party – it would come out of the struggles we are about to see. We must get involved in the anti-cuts campaigns, and candidates would evolve from that. He accepted there may be some movement back into the Labour Party, and that we could never write it off – but it was not worth rejoining now. We need to build left unity to defend the Welfare State, and there should be a re-call meeting of the CNWP to organize work within communities and trade unions. Daniel Randall (AWL) argued we should not be celebrating the success of Caroline Lucas against a left working class Labour candidate. In terms of the Labour Party, 10,000 had joined it since May 6th. John McDonnell would be running for the leadership, which would bolster left trade unionists, most of whom were affiliated to Labour. The Left cannot ignore that. He asked where TUSC was going – would there be a Conference? Dave Church (DLP) agreed with much of Pete McLaren's analysis. Politics operated around elections, and we need to take them seriously. However, there were too many Left organizations standing separately, none large enough to attract media attention. This meant the cuts were being seen as inevitable. The Left was wasting its time at present – we needed another 'Socialist Alliance' type organization as groups were not ready to give up their own identity. The new organization should have a federal structure and not allow one group to dominate – all within 12/18 months. This would enable the media to obtain a left view on events. Single issue campaigns, like those opposing cuts, were important but had no permanence and were unlikely to lead to anything. Steve Ballard (tUSP) argued we should be talking about the crisis of capitalism. We need to regain control of the means of production – the Left did not seem to realize that. Toby Abse (SA) argued Caroline Lucas was a genuine socialist, and would be used as a left voice by the media. On the Labour Party, he felt there was no case in principle for re-entry, and John McDonnell would not get enough support to get on the ballot paper, but individuals may wish to re-join. In the General Election, the working class had moved back to Labour to stop the Tories, but were unlikely to join the Party – most were not in trade unions. The Left needs to give a lead against the horrendous cuts, and the working class needed representation – we need a united organization/alliance/party – an umbrella which must be open inclusive and broad. Marcus Seal (WP) suggested that those who opposed capitalism had voted Labour rather than a ramshackle coalition formed at the last minute. Workers Power wanted a new workers party soon or otherwise the window of opportunity would close and the LRC argument would become more credible. We need to be part of local and national struggles. Clive Heemskerk (SP) started by saying the General Election may not change the character of the Labour Party. Despite the working class partly returning to Labour, it was the worse Labour result since 1983. Labour has lost 5 million voters since 1997. Labour should be viewed not only by its vote, but also by how it is seen and its structures. John McDonnell should call for the re-instatement of expelled socialists and the re-introduction of Clause 4 – if that happened, we should consider it. In the Election, some SP votes went up, but loyalty to Labour was too strong. TUSC was a modest attempt at providing working class political representation. More RMT branches had supported TUSC than No2EU. Lack of media coverage had been a major obstacle. It had already been agreed informally to continue with TUSC. There would be a national meeting of all TUSC candidates and representatives of local campaigns. There was no enthusiasm for a revamped “Socialist Alliance” or detailed structures. Social weight remained important. We needed to pull significant figures from the trade union movement into TUSC so that they could then help convince their rank and file. This was better than simply bolting the left together. Dave Church asked if the CNWP would have a role in all this. He explained that whilst the SP was negotiating with trade union leaders, the rest of us wanted to know what was happening. He also wondered when campaigning could become a Party, and wondered why social weight had to dictate. Terry Pearce was concerned that the CNWP seemed to have been shelved and it could have developed much more. Clive Heemskerk responded. He reminded the meeting that the Labour Party arose out of campaigns; it was a coalition of organizations. A timetable cannot be set against the tide of events. A mass Party could have been launched out of the anti war movement, but wasn't. More could have been done to build on the anti poll tax campaign. At present, he was not sure how TUSC and the CNWP would develop. A new party could not be artificially set up. Pete McLaren felt we need to act sooner rather than later as the far right would not remain disorganised. More importantly, local campaigns needed national and regional co-ordination. He was pleased we were having an open discussion on the Left. He felt that TUSC, averaging less than 1% of the vote, had not reached out to the working class, but, as with No2EU, a start had been made. He hoped TUSC would now be opened out to all supporting organizations. Steve Ballard suggested we needed to draw together what we could do. He wondered whether TUSC could become a fully democratic organization. Terry Pearce agreed local community campaigns needed national co-ordination. He hoped the CNWP, in conjunction with the NSSN, could do that. TUSC was too top down and exclusive. We need to build a movement to challenge capitalism. Clive Heemskerk reminded delegates there would be a TUSC national meeting/conference for those involved in the TUSC campaigns, but could give no more detail because the Steering Committee had not met since the Elections.
It was agreed the LULC should meet to discuss a strategy for the coming struggles and how they could be linked – Sat July 3rd has been agreed following consultation, and the Lucas has been booked at 2pm
Pete McLaren 20/05/10
Report from Left unity meeting May 15 2010